Post 1: Writing a fundraising letter
Post 2: Applying for adoption grants
Post 3: Fundraising event and sale tips
Post 4: Using social media to raise funds
Post 5: Handling negativity during the fundraising process
Be sure to check back next month about this time to read post two in the series!
If you are in the process of adopting or are considering adopting, you probably have already noticed that one of the first things anyone wants to talk about is the money.
How much does adoption cost?
Isn’t it really expensive?
How are you going to afford it?
I could never afford to adopt. It just costs too much.
Frankly, talking about the costs associated with adoption can be overwhelming and a bit intimidating. When my husband and I first began discussing adoption, the cost estimates we found in our research ranged from $10,000 to upwards of $50,000 or more, depending on the type of adoption. The foster care adoption process can cost almost nothing these days ($0-$2,500 source), but the domestic infant adoption and international adoption processes can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. There are many reasons why the adoption process can be so costly for families, but I’m not going to go into that complex topic in this series.
After the birth of our daughter, my husband and I began discussing the possibility of adoption as a way to grow our family. I had just finished graduate school, and we were neck-deep in education debt. The price tag on the adoption process seemed insurmountable, but I opened a savings account anyway and started putting every penny of our spare cash into it. Within a handful of months, we had about $750.
By the time we accepted that the Lord was calling us to adopt a child with special needs from China, the amount of money we thought we needed for the process had increased substantially. We prayed. We researched fundraising options. Then, we made a plan.
The first big step in our fundraising plan was to include everyone we knew in our journey and ask them to support us emotionally, financially, and in prayer.
As a graphic designer who has worked with many nonprofit organizations and churches, I have some experience with fundraising. I also had recently helped my church to run their capital campaign for a million-dollar building expansion. I used all of that, plus what I learned over the years fundraising for several short-term mission trips, to write our adoption fundraising letter.
It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It’s one thing to explain your heart’s calling to someone in person; it’s a completely different thing to express it in writing, particularly when controversial topics like adoption and money are involved.
Here are my 2¢ on writing your letter:
Be honest and heartfelt when you write.
No formula or format is guaranteed to bring the support raining down. Just be yourself and tell your story. The Lord will do the hard part of opening people’s hearts and leading many to support you. Here’s what to include in your letter:
1. Explain why your family is pursuing adoption.
Talk about the calling you feel to adopt a child and describe the estimated costs associated with your particular adoption plan.
2. Describe your fundraising plan.
Tell your friends and family what your family is doing to save up the money you need yourselves (living frugally, applying for grants, federal tax credit, savings account, Etsy shops, fundraising, etc.). People need to know that you are taking your call to adoption seriously and making sacrifices. They need to understand that you are not just expecting others to “foot the bill” for your radical idea.
3. Be specific about your goal and deadline.
We called our fundraising campaign “One Thousand for One,” because we were aiming for 1,000 people to give $25 or more toward our adoption. In the end, we didn’t get anywhere near a thousand supporters, but having that goal made it easy to track and measure our progress on our blog. It also showed people that we weren’t looking to cover all of our costs though donations, which were estimated at about $35,000 (and ended up being just over $40,000).
4. Ask for what you need.
Tell people what you need, and make it easy for them to respond. We included a response card with check boxes for $25, $50, $100, and Other $______. It will probably feel awkward, but response cards give people a sense for what kind of assistance you are looking for, and the Holy Spirit will use the numbers on your response card to speak to people. Include a postage-paid response envelope too, for anyone you won’t see in person. Nonprofit organizations use this system for a reason—it helps people in their giving.
Be prepared for negativity.
Not everyone will take kindly to being “asked for money”. When you make your journey everyone’s business, there will probably be people who will use the opportunity to try to knock you down, confuse you, and make you doubt your adoption call.
Don’t let those voices win. Stand firm in your call, and let the Lord be your strength. Lean on your supporters. (We’ll talk more about handling negativity later in this series.)
Be prepared to be amazed.
God will bring you amazing supporters and prayer warriors to stand with you in this crazy process. When all of our letters were printed, signed, and stuffed into envelopes, we prayed over them and sent them on their way to everyone who loved us, all across the country.
It was terrifying and exciting… and then terrifying again.
We sent out about 250 letters in 2013, followed by an update letter in 2014. Over a two-year span, our friends, family, online followers, and a few complete strangers donated over $11,000 to our adoption fund, which accounted for just over a quarter of our total costs. It still blows my mind!
Some of the donations came in large, surprising chunks, like the times when $500, $1,000, or $1,500 showed up in our mailbox or was slipped to me after church. Mostly, though, the donations came in one-time gifts of $50 to $100. One donor anonymously put a $20 bill in our church mailbox every month for half a year; it made me grin every time.
Here’s the surprising thing about donations — they’re not just money in the bank.
I quickly realized that the regular influx of financial support from our friends and family was delivering a constant flow of emotional energy throughout the long and tiring process of paperwork, waiting, paperwork, waiting, fingerprints, waiting, paperwork, trips to the post office, interviews with the social worker, and, of course, paperwork and waiting. Just when I would begin to feel like we would be stuck in adoption limbo forever, a little envelope would show up to remind me that we were not alone.
If you are hoping to adopt and are looking at those intimidating numbers in the ‘fees’ column, I have some words for you — you can do this, friend.
You are not alone either.
Writing a fundraising letter was only one small piece of our adoption fundraising plan, though it was the one that, when all the pennies were counted, covered the largest percentage of our expenses. There are many other ways to put together the money you need to cover your adoption process costs, and I’ll discuss some of those (and more) in future installments of this series.
Laure Kline and her husband Joel have two children, a biological daughter and a son adopted from Hubei, China, in 2014. She blogs about adoption, faith, fundraising and more at One Thousand for One. You can also follow her family’s post-adoption life at Adopting Baby K. Laure is the owner and principal graphic designer of Lime Creative, a creative studio specializing in design for churches and nonprofit organizations. She and her family dance awkwardly, sing loudly, and pretend to be completely normal from their home in Lancaster, PA.